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Kids encouraged to rock their way to Kindergarten at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Cleveland preschoolers learning more than just music
kid playing guitar
kids learn ukelele
Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 18:51:40-05

CLEVELAND — The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a world-renowned institution, and every Tuesday and Thursday, the museum opens its doors early to welcome a very exclusive group: Cleveland preschoolers.

kids play keyboard
Toddler Rock students get to try out different instruments at the Rock Hall

The Toddler Rock program is a partnership designed to help kids rock their way to Kindergarten.

The Ohio Department of Education found nearly 60% of Kindergartners in the state didn’t have the sufficient skills, knowledge and abilities to engage with kindergarten-level instruction during the 2018-2019 school year.

Toddler Rock aims to help lower that statistic. The program allows hundreds of Head Start students from across the city access to everything from keyboards and guitars to ukuleles and drum sets.

“Every study shows that if you expose kids to music at an early age, it helps them with literacy and reading and other things later in life,” Rock Hall President and CEO Greg Harris explained.

So while the kids are busy rocking out, they’re also learning skills to help them succeed.

“We want the kids to go into Kindergarten being school-ready with sitting in place, quiet hands, knowing their alphabet, knowing their upper cases and their lower cases,” explained music therapist Ed Gallagher from the Beck Center.

Toddler Rock
Music therapist Ed Gallagher teaches the kids drum beats

During their 30-week program, the kids have the run of the place.

“We’re encouraged to go see all the artifacts. The kids can be as hands on as possible,” said Gallagher. Between the beats, he explained “we’re also going to do social skills, communication skills, motor, academic skills all together.”

One lesson plan might start with the kids learning A is for Aretha Franklin. They'd learn how to play a few notes of Respect on the instruments. Then they get to check out the Aretha Franklin exhibit and look for all the upper and lower case As on display.

“They are coming into the Rock Hall and the Rock Hall is their own,” said Gallagher.

And while this is an incredible opportunity for the kids, it’s not a bad deal for adults like Gallagher.

“Personally, it’s just cool to be here and make music at the Rock Hall with the kids,” he said.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.